The BCHL-champion Prince George Spruce Kings will take on the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) champs the Brooks Bandits in the Doyle Cup starting Friday in Brooks.
Normally this best-of-seven series decides who will represent the Pacific Region in the National Junior A Championship tournament (formerly known as the RBC Cup), but since Brooks is hosting nationals this year, both teams have already earned a berth in the year-end competition.
The BCHL hosted the start of last year’s Doyle Cup so this year, it’s the AJHL’s turn to host the start. Games 1 and 2 will take place Friday and Saturday at Centennial Regional Arena in Brooks. If the series is tied 1-1, Game 3 will be Sunday in Brooks, but if the series is 2-0 for either team, Game 3 will be Tuesday, Apr. 30 at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena in Prince George.
After that, the rest of the series will be played in Prince George with Game 4 guaranteed to be on Wednesday, May 1.
After a six-year hiatus, the Doyle Cup was reintroduced last year with the Wenatchee Wild defeating the Spruce Grove Saints in five games to claim a spot in the then RBC Cup.
This is the first Doyle Cup appearance for Prince George and the second for Brooks, having previously lost to the Penticton Vees in five games in 2012. The Bandits also appeared three times in the Western Canada Cup tournament, which replaced the Doyle from 2013 to 2017 and featured the champions of the BCHL, AJHL, Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) and Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL). The Bandits finished as a runner-up in 2013 and 2016 and won the tournament in 2017.
The last two times Brooks made the national championship tournament, they were led by former CJHL Most Valuable Player and current Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar.
Brooks ran away from the competition in the AJHL regular season, finishing with a record of 57-3-0 and 114 points, 24 more than their closest competition. After getting a first-round bye, they went 12-3 in the playoffs, capping things off with a four-game sweep over Spruce Grove in the league finals.
Prince George finished second in the BCHL with a 39-13-1-5 record and 84 points, one back of the league lead. They went 16-1 in the playoffs and swept the Vernon Vipers 4-0 in the league finals.
The Spruce Kings have 12 players committed to NCAA Division I programs, while the Bandits have an AJHL-high 17.
- Bandits captain is Salmon Arm native and former Salmon Arm Silverbacks affiliate Nathan Plessis
- Spruce Kings defenceman Dylan Anhorn is a Calgary native and played as an affiliate with the AJHL Olds Grizzlies in 2015-16 and 2016-17
- Bandits forward Taylor Makar is the younger brother of Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar
- Bandits backup goalie Tanner Marshall is a former BCHLer, having played last season and the start of this year with the Trail Smoke Eaters
- Spruce Kings defenceman Layton Ahac is the highest-rated player from the latest NHL Central Scouting list in the Doyle Cup, having been slated No. 62 among North American skaters in the April 15 list
- Bandits defenceman Luke Bast, younger brother of former Penticton Vees blueliner Gabe Bast, is also listed by Central Scouting. He came in at No. 137 for North American skaters